tv Tavis Smiley PBS November 26, 2013 12:00am-12:31am PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with producer stephen bochco, the creative force time -- behind series like l.a. law and hill street blues. he is without doubt what of only a handful of folks who have remade television, he is called the father of tb second golden age, now returning with the new series for tnt called "murder in the first your co-glad you have joined us. stephensation with bochco, coming up after this.
about to return to tv with the new series called "murder in the first", which follows a single case where the entire season. at least i'm stealing for myself. i referenced that some critics have called to the father of tb second golden era. thatder if you are aware easily, because on the one hand, you put a lot of good stuff out there. on the other hand, you pushed the envelope a little bit. about this feel bad process that you started, of pushing us to the edge of what network television can and will do? >> not at all.
i don't think network television really has changed that much, in terms of what you can or can't do. i had always thought that in my really -- nypd blue would open those doors. while i think that it created a ,uch broader template for cable i don't think it really did that much for network tv. tavis: i'm surprised you say that. andlanguage is more saucy more spicy, the sexual innuendo is more in-your-face now than ever before. you don't think tv has changed that much since that era? company" --"freeze "three's company"? it was wall-to-wall sexual innuendo. that kind of stuff has been a staple of the tv for a long time. what i always thought nypd blue
would accomplish was not just in terms of a more realistic approach to language. when appropriate, given the kind of show you are doing, but also in terms of sexuality and the sort of legitimate portrayal of how people relate to each other on those levels. always -- there have always been cop shows, but the preponderance now of cop shows on tv, how do you read that? shows are by definition melodramatic. they are larger than life. contrastte very start -- very stark contrasts and conflicts emotionally.
they are provocative, you know, assuming that they grapple with -- to the extent that cop shows , theyrrors of the culture really provoke thought and conversation, and i think people liked the sort of certainty of good guys and bad guys. one of the things i always try to do in the cop shows i did was to blur those lines and be a little more ambiguous, whether it was a cop show or a longer , to sort ofer show examine the way in which the system, the criminal justice system or just the legal system, is much more situational.
tavis: i suspect you and i could .rade lawyer jokes all night i'm going to leave the lawyers alone for the time being, but to your point about the cops and how you as a writer, as a producer, would deliver lee blur the lines between the good guys and the bad guys, you don't have to write that stuff these days, and i say this with all of the respect to those who serve and protect us and do it righteously and honorably, but we see these new stories every day. incould be stop and frisk new york city or a million other examples i could sight of where that line between good cop and bad cop has been not just learn but oakland are rated. what does that do long term -- obliterated, if we have to believe in the goodness of the
cop for the storyline to work? >> some stories will work very well without that element. up perfectds" was example of a very successful show that had a very deeply flawed main character. have reallyries stretched significantly, and that has a lot to do with cable and cable's embrace of deeply , in many instances almost antiheroes. that said, social media has so completely altered everybody's ofosure to the minutia politics, law enforcement, you name it.
it, it's out there 30 seconds later. there is no privacy anymore, particularly with the younger generation, younger than we are. they have sort of given up on the concept of privacy as a goal, as a right. so everything is out there. and when everything is out there to doecomes almost quit the kinds of stories that we grew up with. you have to sort of reimagine the jon runyan little bit -- the .enre that task understandably falls
to younger creators than i. tavis: >> i'm working my way to you'rew project, but being a long-distance runner gives you some perspective on this. i'm always fascinated to dig into it. it's not just that there is a loss of privacy in our society, but along with that loss of privacy has come a loss of innocence. there are some who would argue that that loss of innocence happened as we now commemorate 50 years since jfk's assassination. for a lot of americans, that was the moment when the country lost its innocence. the point is, in a culture, in a society where the innocence has been lost, it seems to me that it becomes more difficult to write storylines, pardon the phrase here, that shock and awe the viewer. i'm trying to figure out how i approach the writing when anything you put on paper pales
in comparison to the real world. >> the thing that has always interested me in the kind of shows that i do, have more to do with the consequences of behavior then the behavior itself. pulling the trigger and shooting somebody or dismembering mostody, those are the gruesome kinds of realities out there, particularly in the media. but you know, if you are walking along the street and you get mugged, that is a shocking event. todoesn't require somebody cut your ear off. i mean, it's scary when it actually happens to you. so the thing that always interests me from a storytelling point of view is how that moment of trauma, whatever the trauma
divorce. your dog dies, whatever it is, the consequence in terms of people's emotional lives and the way it resonates behaviorally for a long time is really the stuff that interests me. of"hillirst season street blues" we spent the better part of the whole first season -- that was the scene in the pilot that was over in 10 seconds, 12 seconds, and we spent the better part of a season watching these two are's grapple with -- these two characters grapple with that trauma. that, to me, is more interesting
than trying to accomplish shock and awe. tavis: to your point now about your work being about the consequences of behavior, and i so't want to overstate this, we have lost our privacy, we've lost our innocence, and i would isue that human depravity more prevalent now than ever before. and part of what has to work whether it's a tv show or a movie, for me, at least tom a we have to connect to the humanity of the character and a world where there is less and less respect for people's humanity, in a world where there is greater and greater contestation of people's humanity. is it possible that we will get to a point where your job is going to be really tough trying to get us to revel in the humanity of a character, because we live in a world where the way
we treat human beings is so -- >> i hope not. you know, the entertainment world, television, movies, social media, youtube stuff -- we are so bombarded with so much imagery and such a great sense is ahumanity, and there coarsening of interaction. richieok at this incognito business. 20 years ago, that probably never would have come out, and yet 20 minutes after it happens, boom. now it's part of the social conversation. i actually think part of that is a good thing. it is what it is.
ultimately, people who tell stories, people who try to make sense of all that stuff, attempt togoing to , inte a moral center anything that's going on. you're right, it gets harder and harder to do it in a world in which there is so much visible depravity. i'm not sure that there is more depravity than there was 100 years ago. i just think it's instantaneous now. i think as writers, as locateiners, you try to the essential moral center that i think most people really strive for. since you mentioned this
-- this uglys situation with mr. incognito and mr. martin. i think it was oral war and who said years ago that you read the sports pages first because it told of man's accomplishment. nowadays, that's not always the case. >> that ship has sailed. tavis: since were talking about humanity and privacy and etc., to this moment, what has been your read? we all look at things critically, but you have a real critical eye. what do you make of that story today? well, i suppose you could accuse me of a certain level of hypocrisy, because i'm a big football fan, and have been for
my adult life. tavis: that's why i'm asking you. of violencehe level -- andat culture exalts i'm not just talking about physical violence, emotional violence -- it's horrendous, it's disgusting. ,s i've been reading this stuff , isally been asking myself at an activity -- i don't even know if it is a sport when you start looking at it. you look at the new orleans saints a couple of years back, there have been so many problems associated with the culture of violence, which i think, you know, to a greater or less degree exists in hockey, in
but in football, particularly, i think there is a racial component to it that i don't see as much in other sports. fan, i'mrsonally, as a having some real second thoughts support that i can part of our culture with my television viewing and my time. tavis: do you think this is possible, and i know this is heresy, so don't tell the nfl i said this. do you think it's possible that maybe not in our lifetime, but into the future, that football might be a thing of the past? i asked that because beyond all the issues that you just raised, if these head injuries continue and they can't figure out a way
to make a helmet or to play the game with the proper equipment and the right style that avoids these kinds of long-term -- i'm . huge football fan, too i've been a cowboys fan most of my life, but my heart was broken the other night when i saw tony dorsett on sportscenter, and i couldn't take it. i've seen this happen to a lot of players, but this was my guy on my team. to see him telling this story, it broke my heart. , if the if this sport days for football are numbered in our society. i know that is heresy to a lot of fans. >> i don't know, i don't have a crystal ball. , if you really take the long view, aggressive has always been
into competitive situations of one kind or another. think it's so hardwired, i think it's in our dna. his football's days numbered? i don't think so. >> too much money? i don't want to be too melodramatic. tavis: >> you are stephen bochco. that is is blood lust built into all of us, and we love watching those games. we love watching the sport. if it's not football, it's going to be something else. what's happening with the players is not quite murder, unless you want to be really literal about what happens to these players. but this tv series that you have
first."urder in the your firstite follow series because i'm always trying to track your brilliance. you are an artistic genius, but you are also a businessman. i've been in this chair for too long. rightd immediately went past the series to how is he going to advertise it? how is he going to make money off of this? aw and orderout "l and these other series" if you are following a storyline for the entire season, i'm thinking about repurpose thing and where the money is. where did this idea come from to follow this line for the entire season? "murder one,"
ago, is close to 20 years -- people at the time didn't know how to watch it. american viewers in particular were not going to watch every episode of any hit show. i remember study saying that the average viewer watched about six episodes a season of a hit show and then they would catch up with more than the reruns. but the way the business has changed, the way technology has afforded us the opportunity to in ways that we couldn't have even imagined 20 shows to, allows for really track a single story, not
just for one season, but for multiple seasons. "breaking bad." i started watching it about six weeks ago, and i will finish watching it this week. .o i am a binge watcher i watch two or three hours of it and nine, and i can track six ,ears of that story in that way and it's like reading a great big fat novel. tavis: does that mean you think netflix is onto something, then? >> yes, they all are. everything is out there now. you can sit down and architect your own viewing habits in a way that allows you to enjoy those kinds of shows in very concentrated bursts. so the idea of one storyline -- theby the way, "murder in
first" has a first season arc that's only 10 episodes long. so in theory, if you didn't watch it week to week to week, when it was over, you could go suppose,x or tnt, i and you could just order it up in watch the whole thing four or five nights. does it make things easier, more difficult, given the role that you play? luxury,ively, it's a because you just have more time to do what you do. longer, youook it get to think about it more.
with having toed bang out the 19th script of the season in four days or three days. you really can be a little more thoughtful. so on that level, it's easier. on another level, it's harder, because the economics of a 10 or 12 episode season are much more constrained than if you're doing a typical network show where you have 22 shows to make, and even though that's a very hectic pace, there is more money to spend. to a certain extent, you really can throw money at problems that arise from that kind of production schedule. tavis: those challenges notwithstanding, he is still doing it because he must love it. he is certainly awfully good at it.
the new series with stephen bochco will be on tnt. me, when this series premieres, you won't need me to tell you about it, it will be on billboards and buses. it will be in june, so you will see it. always good to have you here. that's our show for tonight. thanks for watching, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with comedian d.l. hughley about his return to television in a new series called "trust me, i'm a game show host." that's next time. we will see you then.
hello. welcome to this is us. this week we're at the international cull lenary center in campbell. first, we're going to be making a famous french pastry with an american twist and plenty of chocolate. we'll also meet three of the finest chefs in the bay area, the very first american and youngest person to be named best young chef in the world. chef charles fan, and finally richard donnelly one of the best chocolatiers in the nation. i hope you brought your appetite. we've got a lot of great food to share and it